Updated at 4:13 p.m. PDT: This story now includes more information from the press event announcing 'Star Wars: The Old Republic' at LucasArts Tuesday.
SAN FRANCISCO--At a press event at LucasArts' headquarters in the Presidio here Tuesday afternoon, LucasArts and BioWare unveiled Star Wars: The Old Republic, a new massively multiplayer online game.
The game is set about 350 years after the popular Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games and about 3,500 years before the Star Wars movies.
The companies did not divulge a release date and it appears that they will not show any live game play. But with the announcement, LucasArts and BioWare--which is now owned by Electronic Arts--have pulled the curtain back on what appears a large-scale online game in which players will be able to take on roles and create their own, personal Star Wars story lines.
"We're excited to be working again in the Star Warsuniverse," said BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka. It's a "rich period, (a) dynamic period full of Jedi and Sith and other dynamic characters you get to play."
Muzyka explained that the designers of the game wanted to ensure that The Old Republic was a story-based MMO that followed in the tradition of the Knights of the Old Republic.
He added that while people have often asked BioWare if the company would ever produce the third installment in the Knights of the Old Republic franchise, this new game amounts to installment Nos. three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and beyond.
"The game is that big," Muzyka joked.
As designers, Muzyka added, he and his team ensured that The Old Republic featured four main "pillars." These include exploration, discovery, combat, and story.
BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk also explained that the game is designed around making it possible for players unfamiliar with MMOs or with the Knights of the Old Republic franchise to pick it up and start playing immediately.
James Ohlen, the creative director of BioWare's Austin, Texas, studio, where the game was designed, explained that players would get to choose many different things in the game like class, whether they're good or evil, how the story unfolds, whether they represent the Galactic Empire or the Sith Republic and more. And within separate classes, he said, each class has their own story line to pursue.
For now, the companies are not saying when the game will be released--or even what year--or discussing the business model behind it.
But as Muzyka said, "Fans certainly expect a certain way to get into (an MMO), and we're going to accommodate them."
That suggested that the game would be based on a traditional MMO subscription model in which players would pay a monthly fee to play.
And while Star Wars fans will have to wait some time before getting their hands on the game, there is a full synopsis of the story line, as made available by LucasArts and BioWare in press materials:
The Galactic Republic stood for generations as a bastion of peace in a galaxy of warring star systems. Protected by its stalwart Jedi guardians, the Republic held the greatest hope for the progress of civilization and galactic unity.
Deep in unknown space, however, a mighty Sith Empire was forged, led by dark Sith Lords who dreamt of galactic domination and vengeance against their ancient Jedi enemies. After centuries of preparation, the time came for the Sith to make their return.
With a massive fleet and an awe-inspiring army of fearless troops, the Sith Emperor launched a surprise assault, quickly capturing dozens of worlds in the Outer Rim, and sparking a war unlike any other in the galaxy's history.
From the frozen wastes of Ilum to the desert plains of Dathomir, violent battles killed untold millions. Despite its avowed neutrality, surface structures on the water-covered world of Manaan were completely destroyed, forcing the Selkath to retreat to their ocean underworld. Other star systems fared worse--some destroyed, others left uninhabitable. The carnage concluded with the Sith Empire sacking the Republic's capital planet of Coruscant and forcing the Republic Senate into the controversial Treaty of Coruscant.
In the years since the treaty, fear and uncertainty have gripped the galaxy, enabling the Sith Emperor to pursue his own mysterious purposes while the Republic has made efforts to rebuild its infrastructure and adjust military priorities to the new galactic landscape.
Now, tensions between the Republic and the Empire are running high, and a series of border skirmishes and proxy wars have broken out, even on planets as historically peaceful as Alderaan. The uneasy truce established by the Treaty of Coruscant is quickly tearing apart at the seams, and a return to all-out war has begun in all but official terms.
A new generation of heroes, both light and dark, emerges to face the difficulties of these chaotic times, and fight for the fate of the galaxy in this most desperate age.
For more than twenty thousand years, the Galactic Republic has been the most civilized and advanced power in the known galaxy. Governed by the Galactic Senate with representatives from hundreds of star systems and planets, the Republic has been the center of peace and progress, a bright beacon in the darkness of outer space.
The revered Jedi Order has sworn itself to defend the Republic, to battle the darkness, and to bring peace and balance to the greater galaxy. The Jedi have served for millennia in this capacity, and in that time they have earned themselves the admiration of their allies, and the hatred of their enemies.
Less than a century ago, the greatest of those enemies returned...
The onslaught of the Sith Empire caught the Republic and the Jedi completely by surprise, and during a long and arduous war, the Republic was broken. After the capital planet of Coruscant was ravaged by the Sith's Imperial forces, the Supreme Chancellor and the Senate were forced to sign the painful Treaty of Coruscant, which required the Republic to withdraw its support of several long-standing allies, including the ever-loyal Bothans.
Struggling with a wave of withdrawing star systems, an insurmountable supply crisis, and chaos on the streets of Coruscant, the Senate has become paralyzed in the years since the treaty. The bitter and divided nobility of the Core Worlds disputes every decision, damaging the morale of the Republic's already discouraged citizens.
Blaming the Jedi for the failures that led to Imperial domination, the Senate has distanced itself from the Republic's legendary guardians. The Jedi remain committed to protecting the Republic, but the Jedi Council has moved from Coruscant to the ancient Jedi homeworld of Tython.
The Republic has trained up new squads of Special Forces, disciplined teams capable of working together with near-perfect efficiency. These elite troopers still work often in conjunction with the Jedi, but in many places, the troopers have taken the prominent role in providing the Republic's defense.
Despite a post-war economic depression and the continued expansion of its enemies, the spirit of the Republic remains independent, brave, and strong. New leaders are stepping forward even now to stand against the dark Sith Empire, liberate the galaxy, and restore the Republic to its former glory.
The true origins of the Sith remain shrouded in mystery. The Sith race was, in fact, largely unimportant until three thousand years ago, when Dark Jedi exiles arrived on Korriban and subjugated the Sith beneath their rule and their philosophy.
As the years passed, the Dark Jedi intermarried with those they ruled, and within generations, the word "Sith" took on new meaning. This powerful new civilization began expanding rapidly, led by a growing population of ambitious dark Force-users. Fifteen hundred years ago, the Sith civilization's boundaries reached the Republic, and the Great Hyperspace War began.
Dark Lord of the Sith Naga Sadow led his armies in an aggressive campaign to destroy the Galactic Republic. Though the Sith were successful at first, the Jedi Order rallied back to defeat their dark counterparts, systematically destroying the Sith civilization on Korriban.
Unbeknownst to the Jedi however, the last Emperor of the Sith managed to escape the carnage and fled into Deep Space with his most trusted Dark Lords. These surviving Sith began rebuilding their society on a distant planet, hoping to one-day return for revenge.
Over the course of the next thousand years, the Sith Empire recovered its strength. The Emperor developed a massive Imperial military, a fleet of advanced warships, and undertook dark rituals which prolonged his life and his undisputed rule.
When the time for vengeance arrived, the Sith began infiltrating star systems in the Outer Rim, sowing seeds of discord and making secret deals with local criminals and warlords. With all the pieces perfectly in place, the Sith launched an enormous offensive which caught the Jedi completely off-guard. In the first wave alone, the Sith succeeded in seizing control of several star systems in the Outer Rim, destroying the Republic's shipyards in the Sluis sector, and strangling the popular Rimma Trade Route.
After the initial crush, the Emperor's brilliant strategies continued and the brutal force of the Imperial military slammed the Republic time and time again, from the deep sinkholes of Utapau to the tall forests of Agamar. Though it seemed the Empire was capable of waging war indefinitely, the Emperor surprised the Republic yet again.
While the Emperor's Dark Council engaged Republic leaders in peace talks, several Sith Lords and an elite Imperial army sacked the Republic's capital planet. Destroying the Jedi Temple and holding the planet hostage, the Sith left Republic leaders no choice but to surrender several outlying star systems by signing the Treaty of Coruscant.
Since the treaty, the Emperor has withdrawn to pursue his own mysterious goals, deferring control to the Dark Council, and setting the stage for a brutal power struggle. In the political vacuum, the strongest and most cunning Sith and Imperial leaders are rising up to assume authority, consolidate the Empire's dominion and crush its enemies.